Ritzy style ...with a vest

Brinkburn Music Festival is the Glyndebourne of the North," says Amanda Platt.

Brinkburn Music Festival is the Glyndebourne of the North," says Amanda Platt.

You might remember London stylist Amanda from the Channel 4 fashion programme She's Gotta Have It.

She was a highly successful personal stylist long before Trinny and Susannah had been invented. She was once described by Vogue as having perfect taste and continues to dress a sizable number of private clients.

Amanda has attended the Brinkburn event, near Rothbury in Northumberland, since it started five years ago. Her husband's family grew up in the priory, where the festival is held, and they now have a cottage next to it.

It would be very rude not to attend, but luckily Amanda adores the event and wholeheartedly enters into the spirit of the thing, inviting large numbers of friends to join in every year.

The Aga-warmed kitchen of the cottage has a rack as long as the room to hold 14 types of hats for visitors to choose from "to protect against the frizzies".

She's learned to style herself accordingly on her visits from London to suit the weather and is never without gumboots, a thermal vest and a duvet coat. "You can never predict the weather," Amanda laughs.

"I do think Brinkburn has developed into a sort of northern version of Glyndebourne," she says, referring to the calibre of performers such as Joanna McGregor (Bach to Brazilian jazz), the Rosamunde Quartet (Schubert to Shostakovich) and Gabrieli Consort (Byrd to Britten) who are to perform during the festival encompassing two weekends, starting on June 30.

Glyndebourne is of course a very grand affair. Its summer season stretches from now through to August and it has a 1,200-seat opera house (£160 for top tickets) in sumptuous grounds in Kent.

There is a dress code - a dinner jacket for men and usually a long evening dress or cocktail number for women. Apparently it is "non-obligatory", but lovers of the event do dress up, and it's now as much a part of the Glyndebourne ritual as ordering a whole lobster gourmet picnic on the lawn during the 90-minute interval between acts.

Don't be scared off the Brinkburn event, however.

It's much more casual.

But who says it has to be? Its ambitions are high and perhaps audiences should honour this aspiration by dressing in a Glyndebourne sort of way.

Brinkburn isn't to be confused with a summer pop festival such as Glastonbury (or Matfen), where squishing around in the mud seems to be the order of the day, there are long queues for the toilets and no-one washes.

This is classical music set in the atmospheric surroundings of Brinkburn Priory, traditionally the burial place of the Northumberland Fairies, which is why it's so magical. Stay later than 10pm and "the bats kick in", says Amanda.

It may bear no similarities to a pop festival and be much more subdued, but the checklist is the same - a picnic rug or light chair (it's a long walk from the car park); a cool bag to keep food and drink safe; anti-midge spray, waterproof, and, just in case, an umbrella. But as at Glyndebourne you can order your picnic and there's a festival marquee with a variety of Northumbrian produce.

But Amanda has some important styling advice about dressing for the event. "Like Glyndebourne, you can wear Vivienne Westwood, but you'll also need a Barbour, woolly socks and wellingtons - I've never needed a vest myself but some might - and definitely no heels."

You'll not find many vests in store at the moment. If there's nothing appropriate in your own drawer, visit www.damart.co.uk for a pretty, slim-strap thermal (the autumn colourways are beautiful).

If this all seems rather eccentric, then it is.

They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well, perhaps only mad fashionistas brave the elements, the bats and the midges in the name of culture.

It's all very eccentric and very English.

It's what an English summer is all about.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
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Sports Writer